Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.

The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.

Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.

The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.

Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.

Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Recent News: Panerai Watches

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The Audemars Piguet Millenary Quadriennium: How To Leap The Years
Forbes, October 31st

For more information on the main introductions at the Watches & Wonders fair, which includes excellent new timepieces from Jaeger-LeCoultre, Richard Mille, IWC, Vacheron Constantin, Officine Panerai. A. Lange & Söhne, Montblanc and many more, please ...Read more

Radiomir 3 days GMT Oro Rosso – 47mm
World Tempus, October 30th

The P.3001/10 calibre, entirely developed and made by the Officine Panerai manufacture in Neuchâtel, can be admired through the wide window in the back. Beating at a rhythm of 28,800 vibrations per hour, it drives the hours, the minutes hands, the...Read more

DcFever, October 29th

FERRARI-00001-AUTOMATIC...BY OFFICINE PANERAI...????????0001?????????. MOVEMENT:498440. ?????48??. 45MM???. ??????. ????????DIAL. ?????MARKER. ?????. ????????. ??+/-? ...Read more

Artcurial : Panerai Only, vente aux enchères à Paris le 8 décembre 2014, October 28th

Comme le soulignent Marie Sanna-Legrand et Romain Réa du département Horlogerie d'Artcurial : « c'est en 1936 que le premier prototype Panerai voit le jour, la Radiomir, destinée aux missions des plongeurs de combat de la Marine militaire italienne...Read more

Panerai Radiomir 1940 Days Automatic : un des "must have" de l'année, October 26th

Panerai a présenté début octobre à Hong Kong, à l'occasion du salon Watches and Wonders, son nouveau modèle de Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic. Cette montre extrêmement raffinée, est probablement la plus élégante et la plus habillée de chez ...Read more

Laings of Glasgow signs up Officine Panerai, October 17th

Officine Panerai is the latest luxury watch brand to be offered at Laings of Glasgow, going on sale in store and online from November 1. Joe Walsh, Laings of Glasgow managing director, commented: “Panerai is a fantastic brand and will be a great...Read more

Panerai's hidden depths, October 9th

It's also the principle that has made Panerai the phenomenon it has become over the last two decades, Panerai's stock in trade is very limited variations on a templates that were laid down in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's – if you get the chance to...Read more

Panerai PAM 598 Radiomir 3 Days GMT Oro Rosso (PAM 598) (blog), October 1st

Reporting on the new many new pieces introduced at Watches & Wonders Hong Kong this year, here's your first look at the new Panerai Radiomir 3 Days GMT Oro Rosso (PAM 598). A real beauty, with a 47mm red gold case and Panerai's in-house ...Read more